When I started this genealogical journey I assumed all roads led to Germany. A good number of them do. But for now, I’ve decided to take the road that keeps leading me to the most unexpected places… that “road” being my maternal grandfather, Clifford Preston McGuffin. For those of you who have been following my blog postings you know that after the untimely death of her father, my mother was raised with little knowledge of his family’s history. From age nine onward—due to limited contact with her paternal relatives—the only knowledge of his family came from her maternal German grandmother. As followers may recall, this grandmother had nothing nice to say about any of her son-in-law’s family and dismissed them as a bunch of drunken Irishmen.

My grandfather Clifford (second from left) with his siblings and parents John Abraham & Edna (back row) circa 1938 in Hayward CA

My grandfather Clifford (second from left) with his siblings and parents John Abraham & Edna (back row) circa 1938 in Hayward CA

By focusing on the ancestry of my maternal grandfather Clifford I am discovering a part of myself I never knew existed. It’s a quarter of me really…which feels like a lot until I think about my mother. I have to say one of the best parts of my own self-discovery is sharing this family history with her…being able to experience her joy and awe as we uncover new bits of information…learning the real story of her father’s family…and finding the other half of herself.

So for the moment, I am putting aside anything to do with my paternal roots…and anything I already know about my mother’s maternal roots…and focusing solely on my maternal grandfather Clifford… and his fascinating family.

The assumption I made about my maternal grandfather’s family is that they would all be Irish or Scotch-Irish…and while there is some of that—the first McGuffins to arrive in America were Scotch-Irish who came to the colony of Pennsylvania in the mid-1700’s from Ireland—there is so much more.

Clifford’s grandparents through his father John Abraham McGuffin (pictured above) are Preston Robertson McGuffin and Elizabeth Jane Briscoe. His grandparents through his mother Edna Wood (pictured above) are Stafford L. Wood, and Lydia Maria Teachout. I have yet to uncover much about the Wood branch of the tree, so at this point I am only reporting on the other three branches, of which there is much to say. There is SO much to say about these three family lines, that I am actually going to limit this particular post to my ancestors born in America between 1627 and 1700… and living in the settlements of Jamestown (VA), St. Mary’s City (MD), and New Netherlands (NY).

Somehow the history that stuck in my head from childhood studies was the voyage of the Mayflower and its landing at Plymouth Rock. I remember during a family vacation we visited the famous rock and the colony. I thought it was all a bit boring. As a child I couldn’t much relate to the 17th century and I certainly never gave thought to other early American settlements. It turns out I should have given them some consideration…as this is where my American roots start.

 

Present day St. Mary's City (MD) recreation of the 1634 settlement

 

The first 5 permanent settlements in America were Jamestown (1607), Plymouth (1620), New Netherland (1624), St. Mary’s City (1634), and New Sweden (1638). Providence (RI) would be established soon after, New Netherland would become New York by 1674 and New Sweden would become part of Pennsylvania in 1683. By 1690 the population of the British American colonies was about 250,000.

 

Closeup of the monument erected to honor the first settlers of Maryland and St. Mary's City

 

My English ancestors started to arrive in Jamestown after 1624 when it officially became a royal colony, my Dutch ancestors (with a few English mixed in) started to arrive in New Netherland from its beginnings, and some more English family arrived with Lord Baltimore to establish St. Mary’s City in Maryland in 1634.

 

Present day replica of the ship Dove--on which my ancestors, Dr. John Briscoe and his wife Elizabeth Dubois, arrived in America in 1634

 

 

Through my grandfather McGuffin, my American roots stretch back in time 11, 12, & 13 generations within the various branches of the family tree. I love that I’m now starting to recognize why some of my grandparents were given their particular names…Clifford’s father John Abraham McGuffin (pictured above) carried two important family names. His mother’s father was John Briscoe…a name that carried through six generations from that first American Briscoe. His father’s father was Abraham Seay McGuffin…the first two Abraham Seays (father and son) arrived in Virginia in the late 1600’s, with the name Abraham Seay appearing in every subsequent generation until the one before John Abraham. I wonder if my great-grandfather knew what sort of legacy he was carrying around?

Amazingly between 1627 and 1695, forty-eight of my (multiple) great-grandparents were born in one of the American settlements: Clifford’s paternal grandfather’s family (Sims, Loveing, Swann, Petty, Nalle, Brown and others) was settled in Virginia , his paternal grandmother’s family (Briscoe) was settled in Maryland, and his maternal grandmother’s family (Teachout/Tietsroot, Vandervoort) was settled in New Netherland.

 

In Virginia (from Jamestown to Richmond):

Edward Swann b. 1630

Susannah Heath b. 1632

William Garton b. 1635

Hannah Margaret Angell b.  1639

Jane Willis b. 1627

John Aldin b. abt 1627

Valentin Allen abt. 1630

Mary Page abt. 1630

Elizabeth Grizzell b. 1632

John Spilsby b. 1639

Charles Loveing b. 1640

Jennie Ross b. 1642

Rebecca (Petty) b. 1642

John Garton b.1661

Martha Adelade Martin b.1644

Amy Clark b. 1680

Thomas Petty b. 1680

Catherine Garton b. 1675

Martin Nalle b. 1675

Mary Jane Aldin b. 1681

Daniel Brown b. 1687

Elizabeth Coleman b. 1687

Francis Brown b. 1654

Elizabeth Allen b. 1660

Robert Coleman b. 1656

Ann Spilsbee b. 1659

Hannah Seaton b. 1683

John Loveing b. 1695

In Maryland (St. Mary’s City):

Phillip Briscoe b. 1648

Susannah Swann b. 1660

George Cole b. 1667

Phillip Briscoe b. 1680

Elizabeth Cole b. 1689

New Netherland (from Fort Orange to New Amersterdam):

Marretje Jorise Rapalje b. 1627

Garrett Travis b. 1633

Katherine Hewitt b. 1635

Hannah Jackson b. 1642

Elizabeth Ellsworth b. 1655

Willem Abrahamse Tietsoort b.1648

Jacob Tietsoort b. 1683

Machtelt Vandervoort b. 1642

Catalyntje Meesz b. 1650

Jannetje Keirsen b. 1651

Sara Van Heyningen b. 1681

James Travis b. 1670

Hannah Galpin b. 1669

Deliverance Conkling b. 1675

Angelica Boeckhout b. 1678

My first discovery of these 17th century American roots came through the Briscoe family in Maryland. When I “googled” St. Mary’s City and saw that it was some sort of a tourist destination, I knew a trip was in order. It was not too long after that I realized I also had these crazy deep Virginia roots. So when my husband announced a few days later that he had to travel to Richmond on business and wondered if I might want to ride along…well, of course I jumped at the chance. And so last Friday I found myself sitting in the archives of the Library of Virginia in downtown Richmond…like a kid in a candy store. I spent seven straight hours reading everything I could find…which was a lot…and reluctantly left potential sources untouched… with a follow-up visit in mind. The next day, Saturday, we had only a few hours before we had to head back north to Philadelphia in time to pick my sister up at the airport that evening. While I had discovered quite a bit more about my Virginia roots—including locations of ancestral grave sites—we decided with our limited time we’d head north, taking the scenic route through the Chesapeake Bay region…with the intention of stopping off in St. Mary’s City. It was just enough time to scratch the surface… to whet my appetite…I can’t wait to get back south to snoop around a bit more.

Trinity Church at St. Mary's City, the Anglican church of the Briscoes...the empty field in front of the church contains the unmarked graves of those buried in the 17th century

 

The unmarked graves at Trinity Church: this is likely the burial place of the original settlers Dr. John Briscoe 1612-1699 & his wife Eliabeth Dubois Briscoe 1615-1717, their son Col. Philip Briscoe, his wife Susannah Swann and perhaps the third generation Dr. Philip Briscoe and his wife Elizabeth Cole

 

Of course I’m also thinking about those New Netherlands ancestors…what more can I find out about them and their burial places? I know nothing about New Netherlands…except for that story about the Indians selling the island of Manhattan for a string of beads. Turns out I have an acquaintance who happens to be an authority on the subject. I discovered his expertise after reading about his association with the New Holland Society in New York after we connected on LinkedIn a few days ago. Guess what? He just happens to be giving a talk on that very subject at the Franklin Inn Club tomorrow at lunch time…guess where I’m going to be tomorrow afternoon? Gotta love the universe…

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